Juggernaut Index No. 10: You'll need to forgive Westbrook ... but never forget

Andy Behrens

The Juggernaut Index is our annual attempt to rank every NFL team for fantasy purposes. We're not concerned with real-life wins and losses here, only fantasy potential. These rankings rely entirely on hard, incontrovertible math. They are not to be questioned.

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10. Philadelphia Eagles

Many of us are stuck in abusive fantasy relationships with Brian Westbrook. That work stoppage at the one yard-line in Week 15 last year was devastatingly cruel.

If we ever meet, I'm going to demand $75 from Westbrook, plus transaction fees. And either a t-shirt or bobblehead, his choice.

Nonetheless, he's fourth in the Yahoo! experts running back ranks, and there's a case to be made that he should be the top overall pick in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues. Westbrook caught 90 passes for 771 yards and five touchdowns in 2007, and the year before it was 77 receptions for 699 yards and four TDs. The soon-to-be 29 year old has also rushed for 2550 yards and 14 TDs over the past two seasons. He's simply a huge contributor to a productive offense.

If there's a legitimate knock on Westbrook, it's that he's never played 16 games in any of his six NFL seasons. Still, in recent years he's kept himself healthy enough to be an elite fantasy back. He won't fall beyond the fifth pick in many drafts. Lorenzo Booker and Correll Buckhalter are the co-handcuffs

Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb has also dealt with more than his share of injuries. Over the past three years, he's played only 33 games. When he's on the field, of course, McNabb is outstanding. He's experienced some shoulder tendinitis during the off-season, but he's reportedly moving much better than he did in '07, when he was recovering from an ACL tear.

"I know it sounds crazy, but going into last year Donovan was certainly healthy enough to play,'' (coordinator Marty) Mornhinweg said. "But he wasn't nearly healthy enough to be Donovan McNabb. So he became a better quarterback because of his lack of mobility. He learned many things during the course of his playing time, in game situations. And now he's got it all back, it appears. He's 100 percent healthy; he's running and gunning again."

McNabb is currently our No. 8 quarterback for fantasy purposes, but there's no question he has the talent to outperform that rank.

Remember when that Inquirer columnist suggested a McNabb-for Lance Briggs swap? We're still open to that, Philly. And if you need us to squeeze Kyle and/or the Cannon into the deal somehow, it's totally doable.

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Receiver Kevin Curtis had an excellent season in 2007, even if approximately 47 percent of his stats arrived in Week 3 against a dreadful Detroit defense (11 receptions, 221 yards, 3 TDs). He's ranked No. 30 among the WRs, so consider him a fringe public league starter in Week 1.

Reggie Brown was a relative disappointment last year. He began the season on many sleeper lists, then continued sleeping for 13 weeks. A decent finish cleaned up an otherwise ugly year. Brown is dealing with a hamstring issue right now:

Brown was scheduled to have an MRI exam Friday morning. He missed the preseason opener in Pittsburgh last week with an Achilles tendon injury. That injury also caused him to miss some practice this week.

Meanwhile, rookie receiver DeSean Jackson has been fantastic. He caught seven passes for 71 yards in the Eagles' second preseason game, and he had five for 51 in their first. A month ago, we'd have said that Jackson was an interesting receiver in dynasty drafts. Today, it's clear that he's worth a late-round pick in public leagues.

This was Rivals' assessment:

Jackson shows explosiveness each time he gets the ball in his hands as a receiver or as a returner. He has a burst that allows him to separate from defenders and score from anywhere on the field. He possesses fine hands and outstanding open-field running skills. His ability to run short routes and turn them into long gains makes him an ideal fit for a West Coast offense.

And here's visual evidence:

So yeah, he's not without talent.

Tight end LJ Smith falls just outside the top 16 at his position in our rankings, but that has more to do with the depth and upside at the position than it does with Smith's talent. If he were to emerge as an every-week fantasy starter, it would hardly be a shock. Jason Cole just wrote a thorough feature discussing Smith's outlook for '08. Here's the money quote for fantasy owners:

Smith has the talent to be among the great tight ends of the NFL, right there with the likes of Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten. Moreover, the Eagles are the perfect setting for him or, for that matter, any tight end. The Philadelphia offense, which is a version of the West Coast offense, is tailored for tight ends, particularly when it comes to the red zone. That was evidenced during Tuesday’s red zone practice at training camp.

Of the approximately 25 plays that were run inside the 20-yard line, more than half featured the tight end as the primary target ... As Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg summed it up succinctly, “The tight end is very important for us all over the field, but especially in the red zone.”

The Philadelphia defense was actually in the league's top ten in limiting points and yards last season (18.8 and 311.4 per game), but they only created 19 turnovers, and thus weren't useful to fantasy owners (98 points). They've added DB Asante Samuel (six INTs, one TD) and DE Chris Clemons (eight sacks, two FFum), so there's hope, despite the strength of the Eagles' division. LB Stewart Bradley, DE Trent Cole (70 tackles, 12.5 sacks, four FFum), LB Omar Gaither (103 tackles) and Samuel are the IDPs of interest.

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2007 Philadelphia team stats

Rushing: 123.4 Y/G

Passing: 234.7 Y/G

Points per game: 21.0

Turnovers: 27

Red Zone possessions and TDs: 51, 23

'08 Schedule strength: .520

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The rest of the Index...

32) Chicago, 31) Tennessee, 30) San Francisco, 29) Miami, 28) Baltimore, 27) NY Jets, 26) Oakland, 25) Tampa Bay, 24) Atlanta, 23) Houston, 22) Kansas City, 21) Buffalo, 20) Carolina, 19) Detroit, 18) Seattle, 17) Denver, 16) Washington, 15) St. Louis, 14) Minnesota, 13) Arizona, 12) Jacksonville, 11) Cincinnati, 10) Philadelphia

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